Bach flower remedies are based on the concept of water memory. They are prepared from fresh flowers, from which the vibrational essence has been extracted either by soaking the petals in spring water exposed to sunlight, or by boiling them.

The resulting fluid is preserved by the addition of brandy, and made into ‘stock bottles’, which can be purchased from health stores or online. Hold on… this does not mean that you will be prescribed medicine that has half water and half brandy. While dispensing, the fluid is diluted further so that the alcohol content is almost zero. Even better, if you wish to avoid alcohol entirely for religious or medical reasons, you can opt for a Bach flower preparation that uses glycerine instead of brandy.

You may have heard about Bach flower remedies from your homoeopath, as they are often used along with homoeopathy. Though there are many books available on Bach flower remedies and how to use them, my advice would be to consult a practitioner so that you can talk over your problems, view them with a fresh perspective, and confirm the most appropriate choice of flowers. This is because Bach flower remedies are chiefly used for treating emotional and mental conditions. The selection of remedies is guided purely by the current emotional state of the patient. So probing into past history or deeper feelings is usually avoided, unless the patient spontaneously reveals such aspects.

Up to six of the flowers can be combined in the same mixture, to be taken orally in a dosage of four drops four times a day. Treatment bottles need to be kept refrigerated, and used within three weeks, otherwise there is a risk of the contents becoming infected.

How safe are they?

Bach flower remedies are safe even for babies, and can be used alongside almost any other kind of treatment. In some acute cases they result in an almost instant improvement, but for more long-standing problems it may take a week or two for them to show effect. They have no toxic side-effects, but in a few cases they produce ‘healing reactions’.

What are healing reactions?

These can take many forms: an increase of anxiety, bad dreams, physical symptoms such as skin rashes, or loose bowel movements.

Healing reactions are best explained by suppressed negative emotions coming to the surface before being released and replaced by positive ones. These can be a good sign, showing that the remedies are working, but in the rare cases when they are really troublesome, it is wise to reduce the dosage or stop the medicine altogether for a few days and seek a practitioner’s advice.

How do these remedies work?

Because they do not contain any chemical trace of the source flowers, sceptics affirm that any benefits are purely due to placebo effect. I must also inform you that if you look up online about how these remedies work, you may find that the few placebo-controlled trials, which have been published in medical literature, have reached the same conclusion. However, the way these studies have been designed does not give a valid reflection of the way the remedies are used in real-life settings. In my own experience, and in that of my fellow practitioners, the remedies do help in over 80 per cent of cases and they are sometimes spectacularly effective. The fact that animals and small children also respond well to these remedies suggests that there is something more than just the placebo effect.

Besides, a certain ‘placebo’ element is there in any system of therapy, which is not a bad thing because it indicates that the person’s powers of self-healing are being stimulated by a system that encourages a positive outlook, insight and self-responsibility.

The best-known Bach flower preparation is the Rescue Remedy, which contains five of the 38 individual remedies in the series. Rescue Remedy is designed for occasional use at times of acute stress. In other situations, it is best to make up an individual combination according to the needs of the client, as I do in the following scenarios:

>>  For students who are anxious and sleepless at the prospect of taking their exams and for those anxious about applying for jobs:

Mimulus [for understandable fears]

White chestnut [for worrying thoughts]

Walnut [for coping with change]

Larch [for a long-standing lack of confidence in ones abilities]

>>  For people frustrated from slow recovery of injuries

Star of Bethlehem [for shock and trauma]

Impatiens [for impatient nature]

Holly [for feelings of resentment towards those who may have caused injury]

Some of the remedies are indicated mainly for transient moods, others are more relevant for long-term personality traits. They do not treat specific diseases directly, and should only be used complementary to medical treatment, not as an alternative to it.

How it all began

Over 80 years ago, Dr Edward ‘Batch’ Bach, a medical doctor gave up his successful practice in London to search for a natural and non-toxic system of healing, one that would address the root causes of ill-health rather than just suppressing the symptoms. He studied homoeopathy for a while and then, while walking in the countryside, began to discern that certain wild flowers carried vibrations corresponding to different psychological states. He moved to the countryside where he devoted the rest of his short life to completing his series of remedies, and writing books about his philosophy of holistic healing. Bach believed that ‘a conflict between soul and personality’ was the underlying factor in most kinds of ill-health, and that the flower remedies could help recovery by promoting positive qualities such as patience, tolerance, hopefulness or courage.

The Bach Centre website, www.bachcentre.com, provides detailed information about the remedies and how to use them, and about practitioner training courses.

This was first published in the November 2013 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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